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A historic Viking wood carving of a wolf

Interview with Michael Hirst (Creator of Vikings)

Image Credit: | Above: A historic Viking wood carving of a wolf

Michael Hirst, creator of Vikings discussed with us the universal appeal of the show, its historical accuracy and his creative goals and direction for the series.

“It’s essentially a drama, but within the limits of drama it is as authentic and real as I can make it,” says Hirst.

In fact, he has shown the series to academics, and has generally received positive response.

“We showed it to the head of Scandinavian Studies at Harvard, whose Swedish…he said, “This is the first time my culture has ever been taken seriously and intelligently. I’m sure it’s full of inaccuracies, but it’s the Dark Ages and we don’t know a lot of things about that period.”

While admitting that there may be a few inaccuracies on the show, he aims to create a compelling story that is based on historical research and evidence.

“Everything I write begins with the real. I don’t like fantasy. It’s all based on proper research, but it’s always a drama, not a documentary. I’m a storyteller, and this is my saga.”

Part of what makes it so authentic, he says, is that Vikings contains real fighting, realistic sets and little special effects.

“We use visual effects very sparingly. It’s not Game of Thrones where everything is a visual effect. These characters’ fight for real. They row boats, they climb cliffs, they get bruised and they bleed. We do things as authentically as we can.”

Traditionally Vikings have been portrayed in film and television as plundering Pagans, but Hirst manages to portray them in such a way that they are likeable – even heroes.

“I love Vikings. Beforehand I was told it was impossible to make Vikings sympathetic – people said that they are just dirty ex-hippies who rape and plunder. But their history was written by Christian monks, people who wanted to paint them in the worst light…but the Vikings were actually very family orientated people.”

On the show’s success, Hirst says the show started with a small budget and an unknown future – but has now become a global phenomenon.

“We started with one boat and a village that consisted of just three buildings. We could only point the camera in one direction. Now things are on a much bigger scale, and that mirrors exactly what has happened to the characters…Now people are queueing up to be in Vikings. A famous Swedish golfer and a couple of pop stars want to be in it!”